Three white men convicted of planning to bomb a Muslim Somali community in Kansas are appealing for lighter sentences by saying that Russian propaganda and Donald Trump’s hateful, racist rhetoric is to blame for their actions.
Attorneys for Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright filed court documents on Tuesday claiming that their clients were “influenced by Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and Russian propaganda on social media,” writes BuzzFeed News.
Stein, Allen and Wright were convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights in April for plotting to bomb a Kansas apartment building that housed dozens of Muslim Somali refugees and a mosque. Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence—life imprisonment—for all three men.
But the men’s attorneys wrote in a sentencing memorandum that imprisoning their clients for life would send “a mixed signal,” given that the White House routinely calls Islam “a dangerous threat.”
“As long as the Executive Branch condemns Islam and commends and encourages violence against would-be enemies, then a sentence imposed by the Judicial Branch does little to deter people generally from engaging in such conduct if they believe they are protecting their countries from enemies identified by their own Commander-in-Chief,” the attorneys wrote.
They cited Trump’s tweets as evidence, as well as the president’s recent—and completely unfounded—claim that “Middle Easterners are mixed in” with a migrant caravan currently en route to the U.S. from Honduras.
The attorneys argued that sentencing the men to life in prison wouldn’t have a deterrent effect—though, of course, it’s important to note that the reason to give harsh sentences isn’t just to deter other people from committing crimes, it’s to punish criminals appropriately for the crimes they’ve been convicted of.
Prosecutors raised this point—emphasizing that the three men didn’t just want to commit mass murder, they also wanted to “incite other groups to ‘wake up’ and commit other acts of violence against Muslims, against landlords who rent to Muslims, and against the U.S. government, and to spread the hateful message that Muslims should be, in the words of Defendant Stein, ‘eradicated’ from the United States.”
In asking Stein, Wright and Allen’s sentences to be lightened, their attorneys aren’t just saying that Trump’s racist, anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric is so powerful it leads otherwise law-abiding white folk to commit crimes, but that it’s so potent it ought to get those white folk off the hook for those crimes. How’s that for white magic?
Stein, Wright and Allen will be sentenced on Nov. 19 and 20.